Wednesday, December 19, 2012

2012 Distribution Results

This post was written by Rosanna Kingston, Clean the World's nonprofit partnership and volunteer coordinator.

What an exciting year!

Almost 4 million soap bars were distributed globally through our partners this year - and more than 12 million bars since Clean the World was founded in 2009. However, 64,000 bars had special significance this year because they were handed directly to children and families by Clean the World team members. Our groups made a total of four distribution trips to Honduras and Guatemala in 2012, where the soap was hand-delivered to people in need. Sixteen individuals from throughout the United States and Canada joined us in 2012 for these life-changing journeys.

Some team members work in the hospitality industry while others were corporate partners from Aloft, Starwood, Canalta, Clearly Natural, Concord and Lakeview. They came from a variety of positions within these organizations, from custodial to management. On one trip we were joined by actress Mariana Klaveno.

Our teams visited orphanages, soup kitchens, schools, ghettos, landfills and villages. There appeared to be very little soap in any of these places before we arrived. Our team members learned how the citizens live and the challenges they face with hygiene and inadequate sanitation.

There is a landfill in Guatemala where subsistence workers live with their families within the borders of the landfill itself. Every day scores of the Guatemalan poor work in this landfill to search for scrap metal and other recyclables. They do this in order to eke out a living that is the equivalent of about three U.S. dollars a day.

All kinds of refuse is brought to the landfill, including household waste, medical waste and toxic chemicals. When the trucks arrive, the workers put themselves in a position where the garbage is dumped right on top of them in order to get the first shot at any decent recyclable materials.

During the rainy season, this environment becomes a perilous mess of mudslides and toxic pollution. We visited a cemetery in the mountain above this landfill and could see all of this from that high vantage point.

During a previous trip to Honduras, one of our team members came up with a novel and entertaining solution to a problem. The challenge was how to show the importance of proper hand washing to children who weren't used to good hygiene. Kathryn Coiner-Collier from the Aloft Epicenter Uptown in Charlotte came up with the idea of us performing a skit to teach he children in an enjoyable and memorable way.

It was a great idea, and the rest of the volunteers on that trip filled in the details. Several of us dressed up like horrible germs, and one of us played the part of the hero, "Super Jabon" (Super Soap). Super Jabon would fight and vanquish the evil germs. We made up a hand-washing song to the tune of “La Bamba.” The skit and the song were great hits with the children, and soon after they were integrated in all the distribution trips. 

The immersion experience was a real eye-opener for our team members. They saw firsthand the daily challenges these communities face with regard to hygiene and dealing with inadequate sanitation. The highlight of each trip was seeing the smiles of the children, the team members interacting with the locals and the children learning the importance of hand washing: a life-saving lesson!

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